If you’re wondering about the joy of aging, look no further. In today’s entry, I’ll be discussing the onset of the holy shite, is lighting speed how it happens?? aging process.
But first, some history about me.
Ask my husband about my exercise habits and he will likely say that I started perfecting flips in the womb and used the umbilical cord as a TRX to gain some relief from that pesky “I’ve been trapped in one woom for nine months” stress.
He’s not wrong, my relationship with movement and relieving stress goes far, far back (like, before I actually knew what stress even was).
There are quite a few yellowing pictures pointing directly to the idea that I was what you might call a “busy” toddler who turned into a “busy” child who then just continued being “busy.” My baby book is not laden with pictures as my mother was also quite busy, with three kids under the age of four, one of whom wasn’t exactly anticipated. Her name was me. Perhaps as the last (and accidental) arrival, I was gifted with my own internal itinerary and a determination to follow it, thank you very much.
I was the toddler who toddled straight into the “OH MY GAWD” end of the pool, forgoing any fear of what was beneath the smooth surface and sending parental onlookers into a frenzy. I was the child who bounced from the couch to the coffee table, forehead first. I lost one tooth while on a Big Wheel, nearly three teeth when I rode my big girl bike straight into a fence post, and another tooth while failing at wheelies while on a banana seat. I left bits of my forehead on a diving board as I surely knew how to do a backflip and more bits of the same forehead on a fire extinguisher chasing my brother around a rental cabin in Yosemite.
I suspect I may have been the first of my family’s offspring to be signed up for a sporty thing, perhaps to reel in that “busy” – or at least find some coordination – hence, gymnastics. There was no warning that this starter class would turn into a two-decade commitment filled with endless dings, bruises, and tweaks most a result of a reputation for being the kid who would try anything. When I retired from gymnastics (post-college), I dabbled in a variety of sports, still relying on the sports outlet to keep me feeling both leveled out and super alive.
In other words, I’ve never not been able to get up and go.
I suppose this is why I am having such a time coming to grips with this body betrayal of aging.
What in the name of Refrigerator Perry is happening to me? It seems that once I hit my late forties, the injuries began multiplying like a pair of misgendered rabbits.
It started small with a pinch here or a zing there. I began noticing that I no longer hopped out of bed on the days after a tough workout or a long tennis match or a late-night softball game. Those hops morphed into slow slides to the floor, allowing time for me to take inventory of any pop-up pain points. At first, those pain points were all muscular, typically resolved with ibuprofen, muscle rub, a long bath, or all of the above.
It was the “good” pain. The “I did something hard” pain. The ache of a great challenge.
I always recovered within a few hours and definitely before I was back to another workout or game or match. But then the aches began to linger. I started needing a bit of warm-up time to wake up the sore spots as I would still feel stiff when strolling onto a court or gearing up for a fitness class. That wasn’t great but, still, losing a few games in a tennis match because my legs were protesting almost seemed worthy of a humble brag.
I eventually made the super adult decision to add a rest day between activities, shrugging with a boastful “Oh, yeah, recovery day, nothing hardcore for me today.” My body didn’t fall for it. My slides from the bed continued and then I noticed that I really, really had to take those first few steps down the stairs carefully. Those first steps were like a barometer of how my body was going to behave ~ either the day was going to be great or my knee, ankle, hip, back, or all of the above were going to protest for the next several hours.
Seriously, body? We just need to go downstairs. Get it together!
The turning point may have been self-inflicted (may have been?)
The trainer I worked with switched locations from a traditional gym to a boutique-style setup inside a gymnastics club. It took me only about two seconds to break my silent promise not to touch the trampoline. It would have (probably) been fine, really, if I had stopped there. But the trampoline was a gateway drug that led to the Tumble Trak which led to the uneven bars which led to the balance beam which led to the floor exercise and within months I was following up my strength training with a quick dash to see what I
was still able to do had no business trying.
In summary, a near fifty-year-old with an already bum wrist had no business performing tricks that involved that bum wrist, and I eventually ended up under the capable knife of my new best friend in the fall of 2019. Now, full disclosure, this was not the first sports-related surgery for me. I’d had two shoulder surgeries and a foot clean-out (all gymnastics related) that each required months of rehab but, evidently, I’d forgotten about things like “physical therapy” when I signed up for the wrist clean-out.
My wrist surgeon’s words upon initially peeking through her scope were noted as “it looks like a bomb went off in here.”
Yes, this was a wrist that had endured two decades of competitive gymnastics, fifteen years of tennis, and a follow-up of adult gymnastics.
From there, the snowball began to gain momentum.
As I rehabbed the wrist, I noticed that a nagging ache in my right foot did not get better. Oh yes, I had had an ache in my right foot for well over a year that I was sure would heal itself in conjunction with this wrist rehab. When we took a trip to Disneyworld just prior to the great shutdown of 2020, I walked through the parks with a backpack of shoes and I realized that, perhaps, this nagging ache was not healing itself.
So, with a second tennis season canceled (this time due to Covid) I went under a different knife to have a neuroma in my foot removed.
When I got cracking on the courts again that fall, it felt like every inch of my body was sore all the time.
What the actual??
Apparently, I was aging.
Apparently, fifty years of being “busy” was catching up with me at a rapid pace.
I did do all the tests to see if it was something medical but, alas, it was simply a “me” issue.
I was told by several doctors that the cure was to simply slow down and stop pounding on my joints. Well, shite.
Being a mature adult, I opted to tweak my tennis basics to take the pressure off my wrist. I took a lesson and practiced all these new swings and serving methods over and over and over ~ right up until I practiced my good shoulder into an impingement. For the love of Boris Becker. I went back to physical therapy and stuck to walks while my upper body rested. Of course, that made my right knee develop its own ache until I had to have that looked at, which is when we discovered a knee cap that preferred to take a “J” path during flexion.
No, I don’t know what that means, but it does come with a brace.
I’m growing an alien baby.
Not really, calm down. But I’m also willing to attend a baby shower if there’s cake involved.
This morning, I was up at the crack of dawn to have a CT Scan on my abdomen for the latest in my body’s “choose your own adventure” aging game. It really has been its most aggressive maneuver yet and has left me pondering a return to “real” sports at all. This one started with a tweak after a walk (again), just above my left hip. That turned into such severe pain after another attempt to get back into tennis shape that I went to the doctor promptly rather than following my usual healing method of “I’ll just wait it out.”
First diagnosis: Torn Muscle, rest-heat-ibuprofen. This did not help.
Second diagnosis: Mild irritation of the IT Band, a cortisone shot, and instructions to see a general surgeon.
Third diagnosis: TBD… though likely a hernia…and an appointment for the scan.
I have been on total lockdown since that appointment as whatever is happening is remaining at Level Suckage. I quite literally cannot do anything that involves the use of my core without the payback of days of pain. I have also learned that everything I do almost every minute of every day involves my core.
What in the actual?
This body… am I right? I suppose it could just be telling me that it is truly time to lay low. The problem is, I really don’t know how to do that. I love the rush of “busy” went it comes to pushing myself physically. I love the sweat, I love the struggle, I love knowing that I can come back and try again to do better.
I love that, when I’m feeling overwhelmed or frustrated, a good workout will bring me back to earth.
This is not your queue to write “try yoga!” in the comments.
At least not today (my gawd…the core…).
Oh, and no…it is not a hernia. It is not many things (which is great, of course), we just have yet to know what it actually is beyond another extension on my downtime. We have gone full circle back to muscular with a side dish of “maybe it’s diverticulitis.” If my doctor’s office is anything, they are determined. Dry-needling and antibiotics begin this week.
This aging thing…damn lighting speed once it gets going.